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The Post About Guns In America

December 12, 2012

How many shootings have there been this week? You don’t know, do you? Let me make it easier for you. How many mass shootings have there been this week in America? Or, how many shootings at shopping centers and malls have there been? If you said one you’re wrong.   Three people were shot on Tule River Indian Reservation, a man was shot at a mall in Atlanta, a woman was shot at a Wal-Mart on suspicion of shoplifting, and there was a shooting at a mall near Portland, Oregon.

Victims in the first shooting? Brown. Victim in the second shooting? Apparently black. Victim in the third shooting? Black. Victims in the fourth shooting? From reports, white.

Do I really need to write another pamphlet about relative value an violence in America? Can we just all agree that the way we view race and value People of Color in America is wrong and needs to be fixed? Good because I want to talk about another thing.

As the title suggests, this post is about gun control, specifically it’s about the silly, illogical, completely lacking arguments against gun control. Because having a conversation about this issue is good. It’s useful. It allows us to expand our understanding but only if we use logic and facts. That seldom happens. Let’s fix that.

First of all, there are only three basic arguments for continued or broadened personal gun ownership; the constitutional argument, the personal protection argument, which also sometimes veers off into the protection from government argument and the hunting/sportsman argument. There’s also the phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people, which is not so much an argument as it is a bumper sticker but I’ll address it anyway because it’s annoyingly common and finally the “a gun is not necessary to kill someone thus trying to control killing by controlling guns is futile.” I call it the knife argument.

1. The Second Amendment is a crappy basis for an argument. It’s badly written. It has different possibly valid versions depending on what copy of the Constitution one is looking at. It was written at a time that the combustion engine didn’t exist let alone the rocket launcher or the ability to empty a clip in a fifteen seconds and it couldn’t even hope to account for the myriad ways we’ve discovered to perfect the art of killing each other in the intervening 236 years.

There are a lot of various interpretations of a lot of things in the in the Bill of Rights but the one thing that we know for an absolute fact is that the framers, all of them, wanted the document to be able to adapt to the needs of the country. And, you know, guns kill a lot of people.

Now, I’m not saying that guns should be banned outright because of a lot of other factors, but the fact that the right of ownership was written into the Constitution two hundred years ago isn’t a good reason to keep them around. I mean Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution says that I’m not a whole person but we don’t follow that clause anymore because we outgrew it. Maybe it’s time to examine the possibility that we’ve outgrown guns or at least the level of personal gun ownership that Americans have now.

2. People love to spout off the statistic of 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year. Hold on a second, let me amend. People who don’t understand statistics and don’t bother to fact check love to spout of the patently false and easily debunked statistic of 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year. Because, no. Just no. Once again, math does not work that way! At highest estimate, only 100,000 people are shot every year. Thus, the 2.5 million defensive gun uses statistic is a canard.

Further, it is my personal opinion that having a firearm does not make one any more safe. It may give the owner a false sense of safety, which may well make them more reckless and as such, less safe. A handgun wielded by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, someone who hasn’t taken the time and put in the continuing effort to become expert at said weapon’s use is as a much a danger to the public as is the hypothetical criminal being defended against. When it comes to weapons, anyone who isn’t an expert is an amateur. Let’s be honest, most people who feel they need to own a gun do not feel they need to obtain, and more importantly maintain, a level of proficiency. A person using a gun should train their whole life, just as someone trains for hand to hand combat or edge weapon combat. Anyone who doesn’t is being irresponsible and yet most people don’t largely, because they aren’t required to.

And let’s be honest about what, “using a gun for defense” really means. What do you think happens when you use a gun for “self-defense”? You shoot someone and very often they die. Putting a bullet into someone’s body is an attempt to kill them.

And we need to end the ridiculous “protection from government,” idea as well. I don’t care how big and powerful someone’s personal arsenal is. When it comes to a showdown with the 82nd Airborne or the US Air Force, the citizen or group of citizens loses. In reality the populace has no ability to defend against the government and we haven’t since muskets were cutting edge technology. End of file.

3. The desire to own handguns, rocket launchers and assault rifles isn’t about hunting. It’s not about the taste of venison or even bear. It’s about killing people and sometimes killing oneself. Firearms, when used in exactly the way they are designed to be used, kill people. Firearms, specifically the types of firearms I mentioned previously, are dangerous to humans. They are supposed to be. That is the point of them. This isn’t complicated.

4. The “guns don’t kill people” assertion is, frankly stupid. Cars, when not being operated by a human, tend to be fairly safe. So does the average chainsaw. The same is true of a gun. People with guns kill other people and very often themselves. Guns are simply a dangerous tool designed to kill people and when used in exactly the way it they were intended, they lead to a significantly larger number of injuries and deaths than would otherwise occur.

5. The knife argument is a straw man. I mean totally aside from the fact that it’s a lot harder to use a gun in a drive by, for instance, and that knife violence is just less common and less deadly than gun violence, as show in previous links, this argument is a straw man. Not interested.

Having said all that, it’s just not logistically possible to ban guns in the United States. The very idea of trying is nightmare inducing. So what is the solution? Switzerland. No that’s not a joke. The vast majority of Swiss men between the ages of 20 and 30 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations; Switzerland thus has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in the world. And yet, they have a significantly lower murder by firearm rate. So unless we’re going to pretend that Americans are just murderous by nature, we really need to look at their gun control laws. They would be considered, by most American standards, draconian. But you know what? those laws keep their populace alive. Maybe we should try that.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2012 4:22 AM

    Such violence now. I am appalled and it is so hard to even turn on the news in the morning. I agree that something needs to be done. I don’t understand the need for any type of assault weapons, as they are made for killing fast in war situations or a swat team etc. It is sad to hear of so many mass killings by some person mad at the world. Daily handgun violence is out of control. If I have to watch the man being executed on the street here in NYC anymore I will flip. I have 3 brothers who have served in our military and each do not own guns, but one shoots regularly at a range. I found your idea intriguing. I just think the the nuts who want to inflict injury or death will still find a way to do so with our “violent” culture now. Enjoyed your post and you bringing this problem to the forefront.

  2. December 13, 2012 9:34 AM

    Yeah. The Tule River shootings are a more or less local story to my area. A couple of months ago, there was a workplace shooting with multiple deaths less than three miles from where I live. So, I’ve got a few thoughts on the whole gun thing.

    I have to admit that I was not raised around firearms and do not understand the attraction they have for so many people. I know people who get so rhapsodic when talking about their guns, or the guns they want to own, that I’m sometimes tempted to ask them if they need to get a room. No, really, and I’m talk about both males and females here. This isn’t just a “guy thing”. I also know gun owners who, around the time of the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, talked a lot about how things would have been if they had been in that theater and had a weapon on them. When I asked them how they thought that *more* people shooting in a dark, crowded, chaotic auditorium would have been a positive thing, they looked at me like I had just grown a third eye in the middle of of my forehead.

    My take on the Second Amendment is that, yes, it does confer the right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say that individiuals should be allowed to have as many firearms as they wish, and any kind they wish. I’ve even had people seriously argue to me that the Second Amendment includes nukes, and if it doesn’t, it should. And automatic weapons? Of course, they argue, people should be allowed to own them. They usually use the argument you write about, Isobel, that they need to be able to defend themselves from their government. I, on the other hand, agree with you that the ability, technologically speaking, to do that disappeared long ago.

    And then there was the family I used to know that kept a firearm loaded and propped up next to the front door of their house at all times. With toddlers in the house. When I brought up the subject of safety, their answer was that “the kids know they aren’t supposed to touch the guns”. Yeah. And how many three and four and five year olds do you know who never, ever do anything they know they aren’t supposed to do? If you said “none of them”, then your answer is correct.

    Thanks for writing this, Isobel. This is a subject that needs to be addressed more often, and it seems like no one wants to talk about it any more.

    • December 13, 2012 10:44 PM

      You’re welcome. I do my best. I think that part of the reason that this conversation is so difficult to have is that a lot of people don’t have the tools to have it. Hopefully, I’ve helped.

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